This compilation of recipes would have been enhanced with better editing and production.
THE Epicure's Vegetarian Cuisines of India is a straightforward book which lists the cuisines of India Gujarati, Maharashtrian, North Indian, South Indian and Rajasthani. Gujarati food, which the author is probably more conversant with, has a bigger "spread" than the rest. From Handvo to Thepla and Muthia and Khaman Kakdi, it is all there with sweets like Mango Parfait and Jelabis.
Does Khatau follow originally traditional cuisine or is it a collection of her innovative touches to them? When the recipes are classified State-wise, one assumes that they are traditional and awaits some information, however sketchy, on regional cuisine. Though the collection is impressive, the flow is maintained from one section to the other without any demarcation or indication that a new chapter has begun. The book becomes just a compilation of recipes and the production does not in anyway enhance its appearance apart from some good visuals.
It is the little details which make a cookbook worth acquiring. For instance, the recipe for Sabudana Vada says, "soak sago in one cup of water." The question is for how long? Some sago recipes demand an all night soak, some of them require you to just wash the sago, drain it and leave it for five hours, whereby it swells up absorbing all the moisture.
When you are all set to make Dal Makhani, there is a bit of confusion. Black lentils, after consulting the glossary, should be whole urad dhal, and kidney beans rajma. While the instructions are given on cooking the lentil and churning the dal (presumably mashing the urad dhal), what happens to the kidney beans? When the recipe calls for cooked lentils, does it mean the rajma? When one is meticulously consistent, even a novice will be able to follow the recipes, but when different terminology is used in the same recipe, the best of cooks would hestitate ....
Khatau's tomato rasam is prepared with a pinch of cinnamon and clove powder which seems unusual for a South Indian rasam. And how is rasam powder prepared? There is no recipe for this. Soaking the rice in boiling water for dosais and idlis seems to be a new concept.
What I liked best in the South Indian section is the masala dosai vadai which is cleverly innovated. This vadai is made from balls of potato vegetable (potato puttu or palyam please) coated with dosai batter and deep fried.
The recipes are easy to follow except for some goof ups in the editing as in "Vegetable Upma" ... mixed vegetables ½? leaving the ingredients to the imagination. Specifiying the number of whistles the pressure cooker has to emit seems to be the order of the day. Pressure cook for `x' number of minutes seems more practical, where you listen for the first "whistle" and adjust your timer for `x' minutes and switch off accordingly.
And when yellow split dal (moong dal ) is cooked in the pressure cooker for three whistles and allowed to cool on its own, will not the dal become too gooey? A collection of recipes may be a quick reference manual, but good cooks from each State need to be consulted for authenticity. With a good edit, better production and layout, Vegetarian Cuisines of India would have been more popular.
Asha Khatau's first book, Vegetarian Cuisines of the World won her the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the "Best Vegetarian Cookbook in the World for 2002".
Epicure's Vegetarian Cuisines of India, Asha Khatau,
Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., p. 136, Rs.225.
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